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DAVID ROSMAN: The spirit of goodness turns up in surprising ways

Monday, October 31, 2011 | 6:51 p.m. CDT; updated 8:11 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, November 2, 2011

As many of you may know, Google Alert is a way to learn about something interesting online.

In the last year, Google has pointed me to just about every column I have put up here and elsewhere, as well as letting me know when a column has been picked up by another news or blog site.

I have also discovered namesakes — cardiologist Dr. David Rosman, no relation, of New Hyde Park, N.Y., and a Dr. Rosman who lives in Wisconsin.

This week brought a story about another David Rosman, this time, an obituary. It is strange to see your name in the death notices before your time. But it was wonderful to learn that Mr. Rosman was well-remembered by the community in Skokie, Ill.

A friend and confidante also died this month. Betty Cook Rottman was considered one of the grand dames of central Missouri Democratic politics.

Others will write much better histories and obituaries for this great woman, but for me, it was Betty’s encouragement to write these columns and her criticism that made me think deeper. Her friendship, wit and hats will sorely be missed by all.

It was not that I was shaken by these two deaths. I did not know Mr. Rosman, and I knew that Betty had been ill for a long time. I am deeply saddened by the loss of a friend, and I extend my sympathies in the death of Mr. Rosman. After all, I am a secular humanist and value all life.

Last week, I was a speaker at the Skeptics, Atheists and Secular Humanist Society's inaugural conference. This two-day event had seven speakers, including Darrel Ray, who shared his studies about sex, secularism and religion, and how they all overlap.

The last speaker was Nate Phelps, son of Fred Phelps, the leader of the Westboro Baptist Church.

Nate's story really brought home the true nature of religious cults.

Listening to him talk about the beatings and verbal abuse he, his siblings and his mother endured is more frightening than reading about Jim Jones and The People’s Temple or David Koresh and the Branch Davidians.

Take a bit of time and read Melissa Gilstrap’s story in the Oct. 28 Missourian about Nate to get a better idea of his mission. Better yet, go to his website: http://natephelps.com/.

I had the honor of meeting him over lunch and dinner. He is a big man with a big heart and a smile to match; easy to laugh despite being a survivor of post-traumatic stress syndrome after years of abuse.

As many find when they meet new people and have the opportunity to sit with them over a relaxing meal — unrushed by another appointment or the belief that one eats to live, not to socialize — people have so much in common.

No, my father never beat or starved me. My family was not brainwashed, and they did not brainwash my sister or me. The connection is in the little things, the self discoveries and desire for a more fulfilling life for ourselves and our children.

One may consider the treatment of Nate, his 12 siblings and his mother as tragic. It is. But it is more important to see how people overcome extreme hardship, become stronger and devote themselves to helping others.

Westboro Baptist Church is well-known for its anti-gay demonstrations at military funerals and its “God hates Fags” placards and rhetoric. Condemnation of the church and Fred Phelps is almost universal.

Nate is making peace with this by working with LBGT communities against the bullying and discrimination of those his father hates.

In my mind, Nate’s actions are not so much a “mea culpa” for his own participation in Westboro’s unholy war but an effort to prove to others and himself that the spirit of secular humanism is alive, well and searching for goodness in all.

David Rosman is an editor, writer, professional speaker and college instructor in Communications, Ethics, Business and Politics. His new book, " A Christian Nation? An Examination of Christian Nation Theories and Proofs," is now available at Books.InkandVoice.com.


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Comments

Justin Enson November 1, 2011 | 7:10 p.m.

I find it demeaning that one would think that I needed to be offered the possibilities of eternal reward or punishment in order to be truly motivated to do a good work or to avoid doing wrong.

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